How to Use Priming in Social Media

Priming Areas of the brain

Priming is a psychological term that essentially explains how an earlier stimulus influences response to a later stimulus. For instance, if I give you a list of words and I include the word ‘table’ and later ask you to complete a word starting with ‘tab’, the probability that you will answer table is higher than if you weren’t primed.

For years priming has been the study of modern media such as television and video games. Maybe you’ve heard of how we are priming people to act out violently based on violence across all forms of entertainment. The media has really pushed that exposure to “media violence” can prime subsequent aggressive behaviors, cognition’s, or perceptions. Politics of course picked it up and started using ‘priming effects’ for moral and ethical issues.

I believe priming is one of the most powerful factors of positioning and connecting in social media. Understanding the elements of priming can make you a more effective communicator and increase your effectiveness in social media.

How Does Priming Work Best?

It works best when you the two relevant pieces of information are presented in a similar manner. For instance a verbal prime works best when referencing verbal cues later, or a visual for a visual cue.

But priming does occur between related items. For instance, related words like nurse and doctor will create this form of mental connection. In the mind they form a digital connection of sorts and are more available for short term recall.

Priming in New Media

Interesting research found that the chemical oxytocin is released in the brain when someone interacts in a social network. Oxytocin is the chemical that is recognized as the human stimulant of empathy, generosity, trust, and more

So how can you put these two things together? For social interactions let’s get beyond sending out promotions and special deals. Think of creating over arching messages and positioning. These are messages that essentially prime your audience and position you or your service in a certain way.

To give a great example let me first share a negative way of priming. Let’s say you are a successful real estate agent.  So successful that you have a very nice house, very nice car, maybe a pretty nice lake home. Also these amenities you have are well above what your typical client has.

Let’s also say because you are close to your clients you’ve created friendships on Facebook.  Here’s one potential pitfall of doing that that involves certain aspects of priming.

What Do They Want?

First let’s talk about what your target market really wants to see from you on a professional level.  For selling they want to see that you have the ability to sell a property in the quickest amount of time and the best price possible.  For buying they also want to see that you have the ability to find their dream home for the best price possible.

I’d go further and say that for someone to recommend you they have to believe that you can perform and they genuinely like you.  In the end we do business with people that we like on an emotional level. This is where we really get deep and look at how your communications affect your target market.

Let’s take updates over the course of 30 to 60 days.  Throughout this time you’ve shared pictures and updates of you and your family in your home, with your car, and at the lake.  Let’s also say that this lifestyle is well above your typical client.  Over the course of these updates how do you think that makes your target market feel? Maybe that your over paid or maybe even a little jelousy?

While they might not verbalize it I believe on some level it detracts from you been able to connect with this market.  In effect, you are priming your audience to view you and your service in a certain dimension.

An Opportunity in Priming

What should this real estate professional do? Instead look at the communications as an opportunity to remind people of your effectiveness as a seller and connector in real estate.  Here is where understanding priming can help you effectively communicate this message.

You could take the obvious route and mention day after day how you just sold one of your listings or found that perfect home for a client but is this the most effective way to connect?  The better route to take is to understand how to include elements of priming in your communication.

Yes this means you have to make a conscious effort about the things you update but after a while this becomes second nature.  Take the event of selling a home.  The obvious update to give would to say…  “I just sold a home in such and such area”.

Instead look at this as an opportunity to find ways to showcase your ability to sell a home.  You look at ways to share relevant comments, pictures, videos that subtly tell your audience you are an expert real estate agent. Sure it’s a subtle difference but it can pay huge dividends.

Key Takeaways

  • Ultimately priming is a tactic you use to employ in your positioning
  • Think about how your updates and your content is perceived by your target market.  Then look how these elements create an arc in your positioning effort
  • Overt messaging is not the most effective, think subtle reminders that will resonate with your target market
  • Also remember that very seldom is someone in your market waiting for your updates.  So while you’re planning your arc of content think how you’re going to include a reoccurring theme.
  • Another great thing to plan for is ways you can increase trust and likeness with your content and updates
  • Integrate you strategy across all your channels– think email marketing, mobile marketing, and social media marketing, print, and whatever else you do.